With

Ali­son Green­halgh from Ground­work South this week: Naomi Slade has al­ways had a soft spot for snow­drops

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GREENSPACES - The Plant Lover’s Guide To Snow­drops by Naomi Slade is pub­lished by Tim­ber Press, priced £17.99 STEPHEN­SON

WHAT’S to see in Jan­uary? Sit­ting in of­fice at Iver on this cold but clear win­ter’s day, I was strug­gling as to what I could write about. But then, look­ing out of the win­dow, there is one clear win­ner; the Gar­rya el­lip­tica look­ing glo­ri­ous with its long sil­ver tas­sels hang­ing against the blue sky. For most of the year, I am some­what dis­re­spect­ful of what I term the ‘green blob’. The Gar­rya is just a back­drop mark­ing the perime­ter of the sen­sory gar­den and screen­ing the build­ing.

limited in­ter­est for most of ar with dark green leaves noth­ing re­mark­able to show ts space. We gave it a bit hack back in the au­tumn as was over hang­ing the ath­way. The only rea­son it ayed was for lack of funds d imag­i­na­tion as to what to t in its place as it is now ut 10ft tall. How­ever, at this ent in time, I have to eat GROW­ING up in west Wales where win­ters are cold and damp, she would gather a lit­tle posy of snow­drops for her mother on Valen­tine’s Day, when lit­tle else was in flower.

Years later, the keen hor­ti­cul­tur­ist and au­thor has charted her love of th­ese pint-sized beau­ties in The Plant Lover’s Guide To Snow­drops, where she not only ex­am­ines the many dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties, but of­fers de­sign ideas on where they can be shown off to their best.

“Very of­ten peo­ple leave snow­drops to make the best of things un­aided,” she ob­serves. “If they are lucky, they get di­vided or fed, but the pre­dom­i­nant reg­i­men is one of be­nign ne­glect.

“A lit­tle care pays div­i­dends, how­ever, and to el­e­vate the show from just de­light­ful to sim­ply fab­u­lous, it is worth think­ing about plants to ac­com­pany snow­drops as a back­ground or coun­ter­point.”

While snow­drops look amaz­ing nat­u­ralised in a wood­land area, if you have a medium-sized gar­den my words. It stands in all its splen­dour with lit­tle to com­pare aside from the first helle­bores be­neath it, just open­ing their dusky pink petals. The lovely catkins are up to four to five inches long.

I have now af­forded the Gar­rya they look best with other plants, says Naomi.

“In gen­eral, if a plant keeps it­self to it­self - think clump­ing ferns, small bulbs and spec­i­men trees - it is prob­a­bly a good neigh­bour as far as snow­drops are con­cerned,” she ob­serves.

Avoid plac­ing snow­drops with dense ev­er­greens with mats of roots, spread­ing plants such as com­frey and some of the more vig­or­ous gera­ni­ums and herba­ceous peren­ni­als that need di­vid­ing ev­ery few years such as he­le­ni­ums and asters.

In­stead, part­ner them with other small bulbs, she sug­gests.

“They look great with pur­ple Cro­cus tom­masini­anus and dwarf irises, or planted un­der a tree with bright gold aconites or cy­cla­men. A back­drop of fo­liage also shows them off to good ad­van­tage, so po­si­tion them among small ever­green ferns and around Se­dum spectabile cul­ti­vars and clump­ing, well­be­haved gera­ni­ums (avoid the thug­gish spread­ing types as they may well swamp the bulbs).

“Grasses are another pleas­ing com­pan­ion and not nec­es­sar­ily the most ob­vi­ous choice - that par­tic­u­lar award is held by helle­bores, and not in a bad way, ei­ther.”

Cre­ate tem­po­rary dis­plays in pots, plant­ing vig­or­ous clumps into large some re­spect and looked up some in­for­ma­tion about it.

Ap­par­ently they are dioe­cious, mean­ing that plants are ei­ther male or fe­male. The males have more show­ing catkins, sug­gest­ing that ours is in­deed male. They should be tubs mixed with helle­bores, small ev­er­greens and prim­roses, or plant them in pots on their own, or al­ter­nated with sim­i­lar sized pots of irises, cro­cuses or suc­cu­lents.

For con­tainer plant­ing pick a ro­bust can­di­date, species Galan­thus el­we­sii, G. ni­valis, or the common dou­ble Galan­thus ni­valis ‘Flore Pleno’ are all ideal, she says.

For small pots you can plant them with colour­ful heuchera or Tel­lima gran­di­flora or with the black lily­turf, Ophio­pogon planis­ca­pus ‘ Ni­grescens’. They also look good as part of an ar­range­ment with mini daf­fodils and trail­ing ivy and add sparkle to more for­mal, larger con­tain­ers with clipped box forms and skim­mia.

In large gar­dens, they can form spec­tac­u­lar swathes against dark branches and ever­green leaves, but never plant them in a straight line or reg­u­lar pat­tern. Just scat­ter the bulbs ran­domly and then plant them where they fall.

If you have a lawn which has a lot of foot traf­fic, avoid plant­ing snow­drops there as they don’t like be­ing tram­pled and won’t wel­come their leaves be­ing cut by the mower early on in the sea­son.

They do well planted un­der cul­ti­vated shrubs and trees such as butcher’s broom ( Rus­cus ac­ulea­tus), an ever­green with red berries, var­ie­gated holly or even sor­bus and hawthorn.

In rock­ery set­tings, common types such as Galan­thus ‘S. Arnott’, G. ni­valis and G. el­we­sii will mul­ti­ply fairly quickly to make a good show. Try G. ‘Flore Pleno’ with alpine plants such as sem­per­vivums, se­dums and lewisias.

“Ul­ti­mately, the trick is to use your snow­drops well. Put them where you can see them, let them spread and mul­ti­ply and they will re­pay you gen­er­ously with your own per­sonal win­ter spec­ta­cle.”

HAN­NAH

Gar­rya el­lip­tica – in catkin glory

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